Researcher blog by PhD Candidate Caroline Claisse: At the European Academy of Design conference in Rome

Creative methods: Design probes (Caroline Claisse, 2016)

About the author


Caroline Claisse is a doctoral student in the Art & Design Research Centre (ADRC) where she is pursuing a practice-led PhD working with tangible technologies to prompt audience engagement in museums.  Caroline’s PhD supervisors are: Professor Daniela Petrelli, Dr Luigina Ciolfi and Nick Dulake.

Caroline was recently invited to deliver a paper at the 12th European Academy of Design Conference in Rome.  The theme of the conference was ‘Design for Next’.  In this post, Caroline introduces us to the project behind the paper.

 

For the past year I have been working closely with the Bishops’ House Museum, one of the few surviving Tudor buildings in Sheffield, which is currently run by The Friends of Bishops’ House – a group of local volunteers.

Containers of Stories, Caroline Claisse, 2016. Installation at Bishops' House Museum (photo credit: Gemma Thorpe)

Containers of Stories, Caroline Claisse, 2016. Installation at Bishops’ House Museum (photo credit: Gemma Thorpe)

My research explores how technology can be used to digitally enhance objects, whether by being embedded within them or surrounding them in space. I have been using research through design to explore tangible interaction and co-design processes to create novel experiences of heritage in museums and have worked with a group of Bishops’ House Museum volunteers to co-envision and co-design an interactive installation for the house. This resulted in ‘Containers of Stories’, a series of four interactive cabinets encouraged visitors to handle different objects which in turn triggered light and snippets of audio.

Interactive object from Containers of Stories, Caroline Claisse, 2016. Installation at Bishops' House Museum (photo credit: Gemma Thorpe)

Interactive object from Containers of Stories, Caroline Claisse, 2016. Installation at Bishops’ House Museum (photo credit: Gemma Thorpe)

Each cabinet featured a unique story and diverse collection of objects created by the museum volunteers. The content delivered by the interactive installation was evocative, sometimes speculative and it reflected volunteers’ personal interest in the museum. The cabinets were one of the four site-specific interventions displayed during Curious House – a two-week exhibition where I commissioned four artists (including myself) to use creative practice to unlock the hidden stories behind the house. The exhibition generated a significant increase in visitors’ footfall to the Bishops’ House and succeeded in raising awareness about the place and its history.

I presented my paper, ‘Containers of Stories: using co-design and digital augmentation to empower the museum community and create novel experiences of heritage at a house museum’ within the ‘society’ track of the EAD Design for Next conference. This track was centred on social innovation and my paper emphasised the potential of using co-design process, creative methods and tangible interaction to design novel experiences of heritage. It describes how the use of creative and design-based methods encouraged a two-way dialogue, a sense of shared creation, with my research participants and critical reflection.

For ‘Containers of Stories’ technology was combined with participatory and creative methods to increase the voice of volunteers, which in turn enlivened the heritage site and enabled new ways for sharing knowledge and experiences of the place.

Illustration of objects in Containers of Stories, Caroline Claisse, 2016.

Illustration of objects in Containers of Stories, Caroline Claisse, 2016.

Taking the museum volunteers through the journey of designing the interactive installation succeeded in delivering an experience for visitors that was described as ‘novel’, ‘magic’ and ‘innovative’. The more intimate and emotional experience of the Bishops’ House through the eyes of the volunteers was highly appreciated by visitors who identified and empathised with the personal and evocative stories told through the cabinets. On the other hand, the experience of co-envisioning and designing ‘Containers of Stories’ pushed the volunteers beyond the day-to-day management toward more creative and curatorial roles where they became mediators between the place and its visitors.

 

It was a great experience to present findings from the first stage of my PhD at Design for Next. I am currently developing a second intervention to continue exploring the potential of co-design and tangible interaction to increase people’s awareness and interest in museums such as Bishops’ House.

 


Please note: Views expressed are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of SHU, C3RI or the C3RI Impact Blog.

 

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